Senate committee debates raising the oil extraction tax

Jan 28, 2019

Sen. Merrill Piepkorn (D-Fargo) testifies on a bill to raise the sate's oil extraction tax from 5% to 6.5% (1-28-19).
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The Senate Finance and Taxation Committee heard a measure to raise the state’s oil production tax to the rate it was before the 2015 Legislature changed it.

That rate was 6 and a half percent. The 2015 session lowered the tax to five percent, in exchange for the removal of certain price triggers – that would have dropped that tax to zero.

Sen. Merrill Piepkorn (D-Fargo), the bill's sponsor, told the Committee the state could use the extra tax money. And Piepkorn said he doesn’t believe this would cause the oil industry to leave the Bakken.

"That (6.5%) was the rate for 35 years," Piepkorn told the Committee. "That was the rate when the oil boom took off. And it's a fair rate now."

The committee chairman – Sen. Dwight Cook (R-Mandan) -- said in 2015, oil prices were low – and the trigger could have easily been pulled. He told the Committee he worked with then Sen. Connie Triplett (D-Grand Forks) on the compromise bill that eventually passed.

"If we had not done that, if we had left everything alone, this oil industry would have moved south," Cook said.

The committee hasn’t yet taken action.